Alex Hammond reveals her horse to follow for the 2019 Flat season and previews Saturday's Unibet Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster.
The Flat is back Alex, how about unravelling the Unibet Lincoln for us?
You don’t ask for much, do you?! I’ll be up at Doncaster for Sky Sports Racing for the famous mile handicap on Saturday and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into the new Flat season.
The ground is drying out with a decent forecast this week and is currently good to soft. Everyone’s ears pricked up with the news that James Doyle was missing the big meeting in Dubai to ride antepost favourite Auxerre, but at 7/2 favourite with Sky Bet he doesn’t really appeal in a race as competitive as this, despite his exciting profile.
You can make a case for several of the runners, but two that jumped off the page at me when I looked into the race more closely were the Philip Kirby-trained South Seas and a horse trained by South Sea's former handler, Andrew Balding, Zwayyan.
Let’s start with the former, who will be having his first start for Kirby having been bought by new owners David and Annaley Yates for a whopping 150,000 guineas in October.
The four-year-old was very good as a juvenile, but didn’t go on at three and four, but if he can show some of his old spark for the change of scenery he will be a dangerous opponent off a mark of 100.
He won the Group Three Solario Stakes on good to soft ground and one of his strongest form lines probably came in the 2016 Group One Criterium International when runner-up to last year's Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow. I’m not ready to write him off just yet and Jamie Spencer is an eye-catching booking for his in-form trainer.
Speaking of eye-catching bookings, Silvestre de Sousa is a masterstroke in appointments for King Power Racing after the champion jockey’s brilliant campaign in Hong Kong this winter.
He rides Zwayyan for Andrew Balding and his new retained owners, but it won’t be the first time he has got the leg up on the six-year-old. He rode the horse for his then trainer William Haggas for an unremarkable debut back in 2016, but the horse has gone from strength to strength since.
King Power bought him for 100,000 guineas in October 2017 and he has since won twice for his new connections. It was good to see him win the Lincoln Trial at Wolverhampton earlier this month on his first run since October and he’s sure to have come on loads for that outing.
The straight mile at Doncaster and the fast run race will also suit him. Both horses are 14/1 shots with Sky Bet so offer good each-way value.
There’s also the UAE extravaganza in Dubai with the culmination of the World Cup Carnival, what horses are you looking forward to seeing at Meydan?
I’ve been following the World Cup Carnival this winter thanks to the coverage on Sky Sports Racing and there were some great pointers on Super Saturday earlier this month. Horses that I fancy to go on to big-race glory on Saturday are...
The Doug Watson-trained Muntazah is Sky Bet’s even money favourite for the Godolphin Mile, but deservedly so with the World Cup under consideration after his annihilation of the opposition on Super Saturday.
Prince Of Arran may offer each way value against his Melbourne Cup conqueror Cross Counter in the Dubai Gold Cup, he’s 16/1 with Sky Bet.
Blue Point is 4/6 favourite for the Al Quoz Sprint, but there’s a very good reason for that, he’s expected to take high order in the sprint division this year.
The Japanese super-mare Almond Eye will be a tough nut to crack (sorry!) in the Dubai Turf and is 11/8 favourite, we should be seeing more of her in Europe this season.
I expect Old Persian to be hard to beat in the Dubai Sheema Classic after the St Leger fifth ran a stormer to get up close home on his first run since the Doncaster Classic in the Dubai City Of Gold on Super Saturday, he’s a 6/4 shot to win this weekend.
Thunder Snow is bidding to become the first horse to win back to back World Cups, but I think the horse that beat him convincingly in Round 3 of the Al Maktoum Challenge on Super Saturday may have his measure once again in a red hot renewal of the race.
Capezzano has improved beyond all recognition, he proved he had the stamina for the mile and a quarter trip that day and I fancy him to frank that form with more to come.
And finally, give us a horse to follow on the Flat this season.
Well, last time I asked Richard Hannon for a horse to follow he gave me Barney Roy and we all know how well that turned out.
I’m once again going to bow to his superior knowledge and go with Urban Icon who fits a similar profile to the former Hannon-trained superstar.
Barney Roy was one win from one start as a juvenile and this fellow is two from two, but who’s counting?!
Barney Roy cost £70,000 as a yearling, bought by the powerful bloodstock father-and-son team of Peter and Ross Doyle who have been buying horses alongside Hannon for years.
That proved to be a bargain, as the horse went on to win the Greenham (5/2), finished runner up in the 2000 Guineas, won the St James’s Palace Stakes (5/2) and was placed at the highest level.
Urban Icon was bought by the same team for a modest £23,000 and already that looks like a superb buy with wins at Windsor and Salisbury to his name.
He’s entered in the 2000 Guineas and Irish equivalent and although we didn’t see him again after that Salisbury win in June, you get the impression that Hannon was just minding the horse with a view to this season.
He’s a whopping 50/1 with Sky Bet for the Guineas and whilst that race will be tough to crack, he’s sure to have a lucrative season and I’ve had a couple of pounds each way on him just in case. Don’t say you weren’t told!